CINCINNATI -- With the regular season in its final stages, we'll be examining each Friday through Week 17 what we'd like to see particular Cincinnati Bengals players or position groups do with the remainder of the season.
We started two weeks ago by offering four things we'd like to see receiver A.J. Green do over the season's final four games. Last Friday, we looked at the three things we wanted to see quarterback Andy Dalton do across the final three games. This week, it's all about the defense.
Here are the two things I'd like to see Cincinnati's defense do the rest of the way:
1. Hold two more teams to under 300 yards of total offense. One of the hallmarks of a good defense is its ability to prevent opposing offenses from passing for more than 300 yards in a single game. At one point this season, the Bengals had held opposing quarterbacks under the 300-yard mark in six straight games. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger were among those who weren't able to hit that level against Cincinnati's defense earlier this season. Since then, only Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck have.
But for this particular bullet point, though, passing offense is only one piece of the puzzle. This request is for the Bengals to hold an offense to 300 yards of total offense. And not just one, two. That's a pretty tall order. But not for the Bengals. After all, they have been that stout defensively before this season. They kept the Steelers (twice), the Jets, the Patriots and Ravens all under 300 yards of passing offense. Three of those games had something in common: they came in awful weather conditions. This weekend against the Vikings, the Bengals expect to play in even more harrowing elements. The odds are favorable that they could be dealing with a mess next weekend when they host the Ravens in the season finale, too. Let's just say, when it comes to this time of year in Cincinnati, don't expect sunshine and 70 degrees every day.
Sunday's conditions could be a lot like those that hit Cincinnati on Oct. 6 when New England had trouble moving the ball. Hard rains, especially in the third quarter, made seeing difficult for the Patriots' offense and made it tougher for their receivers to catch the wet passes that Brady was throwing them. His last pass of the game came in a driving rainstorm and was tipped up and then picked off by cornerback Adam Jones. So, can the Bengals hold the Vikings and Ravens to under 300 yards? Maybe. Minnesota enters this weekend's game ranking 13th in the league, averaging 353.9 yards of total offense per game. Baltimore currently ranks 29th with a 309.9 average.
2. Intercept three more passes. Jones' game-icing interception against Brady was the first of three interceptions he's had this season. In arguably his best year as a Bengal, the veteran corner has routinely found himself in position deep downfield to pick off sputtering passes. Last week at Pittsburgh, in a game that featured blistering and heavy winds, Jones got in position to pick off a wobbly pass from Roethlisberger near the goal line. At the time, the interception kept the Bengals in the game and still had them believing a comeback could occur.
While Jones has tried to do his part, the Bengals have been rather mediocre in the interception department this season. They have 14 as a team, good enough to tie them with three other teams for 12th in the league. Seattle paces the NFL with 22 picks this season.
It might be a bold desire, but we would like to see the Bengals intercept three more passes. As they start preparing for a possible run into the playoffs, now might be a good time for the Bengals to start greasing the wheels of their turnover skills and putting their interception tactics to good use. They certainly could use them in January. One reason why you have to think a three-interception performance could come the next two weeks has to do with the site of those games: Paul Brown Stadium. Of the Bengals' 14 interceptions, nine have come at home. They have been just another byproduct of the intimidating environment Cincinnati has built inside its stadium this year.